Yet another signify tool
Latest commit 746b6df Feb 20, 2015 @vstakhov Merge pull request #7 from yrmt/master
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Yet another signify tool


Asignify tool is heavily inspired by signify used in OpenBSD. However, the main goal of this project is to define high level API for signing files, validating signatures and encrypting using public keys cryptography. Asignify is designed to be portable and self-contained with zero external dependencies. It uses blake2b as the hash function and ed25519 implementation from tweetnacl.

Asignify can verify OpenBSD signatures (but it cannot sign messages in OpenBSD format yet).

Key features

  • Zero dependencies (libc and C compiler are likely required though), so it could be easily used in embedded systems
  • Modern cryptography primitives (ed25519, blake2 and sha512 namely)
  • Ability to encrypt files with the same keys using curve25519 based cryptobox.
  • Protecting secret keys by passwords using PBKDF2-BLAKE2 routine
  • asignify can convert ssh ed25519 private keys to the native format and verify signatures using just ssh ed25519 public keys (without intermediate conversions)
  • asignify is designed to be fast and portable, it is faster than many state-of-art tools, for example, gpg:
Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Quad CPU    Q6600  @ 2.40GHz (-O3)

asignify encrypt sec1 test   7,66s user 2,48s system 88% cpu 11,482 total
gpg --encrypt --sign -r test   20,61s user 0,51s system 99% cpu 21,197 total
  • asignify provides high level API for application developers for signing, verifying, encrypting and keys generation
  • All keys, signatures and encrypted files contain version information allowing to change cryptographical primitives in the future without loosing of backward compatibility.

Usage samples

Here are some (descriptive) usage examples of asignify utility:

  • Get help for a the tool:
$ asignify help
$ asignify help <command>
  • Generate keypair:
$ asignify generate privkey
$ asignify generate --no-password privkey pubkey
  • Convert ssh key:
$ asignify generate -s sshkey privkey
$ asignify generate --no-password -s sshkey privkey
  • Sign files
$ asignify sign secretkey digests.sig file1 file2 ...
  • Verify signature on digests file
$ asignify verify publickey digests.sig
  • Check integrity of files correspoinding to the digests
$ asignify check publickey digests.sig file1 file2 ...
  • Check integrity using SSH key
$ asignify check sshpubkey digests.sig file1 file2 ...
  • Encrypt a file using own private key and peer's public key:
$ asignify encrypt ownprivkey peerpubkey in out
  • Decrypt a file using peer's private key and own public key:
$ asignify decrypt peerprivkey ownpubkey in out
$ asignify encrypt -d peerprivkey ownpubkey in out

Cryptographic basis

Asignify relies on the same primitives as signify utility, however, for the native format asignify uses blake2 cryptographic hash function instead of sha512. I decided this mainly because of the performance of blake2. Since this function was in the final of SHA3 competition (along with the current keccak winner), I believe that it is secure enough for using as collisions resistant hash function. Moreover, unlike sha2, blake2 is not vulnerable to extensions attacks.

For digital signatures asignify uses ed25519 algorithm which is blazingly fast and proven to be secure even without random oracle (based on Schnorr scheme). tweetnacl library is very small and precisely analysed.

To sign a file, asignify does the following steps:

  1. Calculates digest of a file (e.g. blake2 or sha512)
  2. Opens secret key file (decrypting it if needed)
  3. Write all digests to the output buffer in format:
SHA256 (filename) = deadbeef....
SIZE (filename) = 666
  1. Calculates ed25519 signature over using secret key and the following fields:
    • version
    • data
  2. Afterwards, a signature is packed into asignify signature line and prepended to the digests content

To verify signature, asignify loads public key, verifies the signature in the same way, load files digests and verify corresponding files agains these digests.

Hence, asignify only sign digests of files and not files themselves, and a signature contains both digests and its ed25519 signature.

Keys storage

Secret key for asignify can be encrypted using password-based key derivation function, namely pbkdf2-blake2. This function can be tuned for the number of rounds to increase amount of work required for an adversary to brute-force the encryption password into a valid encryption key.

Currently, asignify uses the following fields for private key:

version: 1
data: <hex_blob|64 bytes>
id: <hex_blob|64 bytes>
kdf: pbkdf2-blake2
rounds: 42000
salt: <hex_blob|16 bytes>
checksum: <hex_blob|64 bytes>

Checksum is used to validate password against the original encryption key. The current minimum rounds count is 10000, however, it can be changed in future.

Public keys and signatures has nearly the same format:


Key id is used to match keypairs and the corresponding signatures.

Libasignify API

libasignify provides high level API for the most common signature operations.

To verify a signature you should do the following:

/* Init context */
vrf = asignify_verify_init();

/* Load pubkey */
if (!asignify_verify_load_pubkey(vrf, pubkeyfile)) {
    errx(1, "cannot load pubkey %s: %s", pubkeyfile,

/* Load and verify digests file */
if (!asignify_verify_load_signature(vrf, sigfile)) {
    errx(1, "cannot load signature %s: %s", sigfile,

/* Verify files with digests */
for (i = 0; i < argc; i ++) {
    if (!asignify_verify_file(vrf, argv[i])) {
        errx(1, "cannot verify file %s: %s", argv[i],

/* Cleanup */

To sign files, you should provide callback for password prompt (e.g. by BSD function readpassphrase):

static int
read_password(char *buf, size_t len, void *d)
    char password[512];
    int l;

    if (readpassphrase("Password:", password, sizeof(password), 0) != NULL) {
        l = strlen(password);
        memcpy(buf, password, l);

        /* Securely clean password data */
        explicit_memzero(password, sizeof(password));

        return (l);

    return (-1);

If you want to use unencrypted private keys, then just pass NULL as a password callback when trying to open a secret key file.

Afterwards, signing is not so hard:

/* Init sign context */
sgn = asignify_sign_init();

/* Load encrypted private key with the provided password callback */
if (!asignify_sign_load_privkey(sgn, seckeyfile, read_password, NULL)) {
    errx(1, "cannot load private key %s: %s", seckeyfile,

/* Add files digests */
for (i = 0; i < argc; i ++) {
    if (!asignify_sign_add_file(sgn, argv[i], ASIGNIFY_DIGEST_BLAKE2)) {
        errx(1, "cannot sign file %s: %s", argv[i],

/* Sign digests and write everything to a file */
if (!asignify_sign_write_signature(sgn, sigfile)) {
    errx(1, "cannot write sign file %s: %s", sigfile,

/* Cleanup */

Generating of keypairs is served by libasignify as well:

if (!asignify_generate(seckeyfile, pubkeyfile, 1, rounds,
        read_password_verify, NULL)) {
    errx(1, "Cannot generate keypair");

Specifying NULL as password callback leads to unencrypted secret keys being produced.

Supported digests format

  • SHA256
  • SHA512
  • BLAKE2b

For sha2 libasignify can use openssl if it is available in the system since it provides highly optimized versions of SHA allowing to calculate checksums much quicker than sha2 code embedded into libasignify.

OpenBSD signatures

libasignify automatically recognises and parses OpenBSD signatures and public keys allowing thus to verify signatures produced by signify utility transparently. Secret keys and signing is currently unsupported, however such a support is planned in the future.


  • Better OpenBSD compatibility
  • Better CLI
  • Manpages and other docs
  • Fuzz testing
  • Encryption via ed25519 <-> curve25519 transform

License and authors

This code is licensed under simplified BSD license and includes portions of 3-rd party code designed and written by various authors:

  • blake2:
    • Jean-Philippe Aumasson
    • Christian Winnerlein
    • Samuel Neves
    • Zooko Wilcox-O'Hearn
  • chacha20
    • Daniel J. Bernstein
  • salsa20
    • Daniel J. Bernstein
  • curve25519
    • Daniel J. Bernstein
  • curve25519xsalsa20poly1305
    • Daniel J. Bernstein
  • ed25519
    • Daniel J. Bernstein
    • Bo-Yin Yang
    • Niels Duif
    • Peter Schwabe
    • Tanja Lange
  • chacha20 implementation
    • Andrew "floodyberry" Moon.